How risky is the Takata exploding air bag defect? Some commentators are downplaying the risk, and may mislead consumers into thinking they can ignore the safety recall. They point to reports about the number of known fatalities linked to the faulty air bags, which have been pegged at 6, with another 100 people suffering serious injuries.
However, as the GM ignition switch defect has taught us, the initial numbers can be deceiving. GM acknowledged only 13 fatalities. But we now know that the toll was actually much higher, numbering over 100 lives lost. Plus many more people suffered serious injuries.
In addition, the Takata air bag defect is getting worse. The problem with the air bags is linked to exposure to the elements. Over time, the number of air bags that are prone to exploding with excessive force will inevitably rise. So will the risk to drivers and front-seat passengers.
If you own a car that is among those equipped with Takata air bags, here are some steps you can take to stay as safe as possible:
1. Check your car’s safety recall status by entering the Vehicle Identification Number on the website for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here: https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/
2. Register to receive updates about any changes in your car’s recall status, here: http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/subscriptions/index.cfm
3. If your car is being recalled to replace one or both front air bags, contact a local new car dealer and get on the list for repair parts.
4. If the repair parts are not yet available, insist that the manufacturer provide you with a rental car from a rental car company that ensures that its rental cars are not subject to a safety recall, such as Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, Dollar Thrifty, Alamo, and other major rental car companies or smaller companies (except Rent-a-Wreck).
5. Be wary of loaner cars, which dealers have on their lots. Dealers argue that they should be able to foist off unsafe, unrepaired recalled cars to consumers as loaner cars. Yes, it’s nuts. But hey, they’re car dealers.
6. If a manufacturer refuses to provide you with a safe rental car, pending repairs, let CARS know. We’re going to publicize stories about manufacturers refusing to provide safe alternative transportation, like they have promised members of Congress and the media. Sometimes a bit of sunshine can go a long way toward convincing a company to do the right thing.